The Image and Likeness of

In the biblical account of creation it is a personal relation with God that distinguishes the human from all other creatures. As such, humans are endowed with a unique quality of personhood as the primary content of the "image and likeness of God" (Genesis 1:26-7, 5:1, 9:6).2

While the references to this divine image and likeness are rare in the Bible, the theme runs throughout Scripture (cf. Psalm 8:5; Hebrews 2:5-9). Humans are of "more value" than earth creatures (Matthew 6:26, 10:31, 12:9-12; Luke 12:24), and are the object of God's special concern (Hebrews 2:14-18).3

The image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-7) can be understood as a capacity for relationship with the self, others, and God in a knowing way, and an openness to a future which provides hope and meaning to life (Ray S. Anderson 1982:215-26; see also Saucy 1993:17-52). The physical body itself is not held to be in the image of God, such that God has some aspect corresponding to the physical body of humans. Human beings as "embodied souls" and "besouled bodies" are in the image of God as upheld by the Spirit of God which attends and summons forth the human spirit (Barth 1960:350ff).

In the second creation account the divine image is not possessed by the single individual: "it is not good that the man should be alone" (Genesis 2:18). Only when the man and the woman exist as complementary forms of human being is there a sense of completeness: "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh" (Genesis 2:23). From this passage, some contemporary theologians view this image and likeness more in relational terms than as a static attribute or rational/spiritual capacity. It is in relationship with other persons as well as with God that the divine image is expressed (Berk-ouwer 1962:8ff, 179, Barth 1960:196). This "ecological" relation between the physical and the non-physical aspects of the human self, and of one human with another, is positively determined by this divine endowment and is subject to disorder and destruc-tiveness when humans fall out of God's grace through sin.

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